A peaceful pilgrim in a world filled with hate - 4 September 2018

Ewald Schmidt

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” Psalm 120:1 (NIV)

Our journey through the Book of Pilgrim Songs in Psalms 120-134 starts today. A Pilgrim Song is sung by believers when they are travelling on a spiritual journey. In the Old Testament, the journey found its destination when the pilgrim reached Mount Zion in Jerusalem. That is where first the tabernacle, and later the temple stood as a symbol of God’s presence among his people.

One of the attributes of a pilgrimage is the experience of being a foreigner in a strange land. The pilgrim travels through a world into which he does not fit. He keeps on travelling, searching for God’s guidance along the way. There are questions as to why Psalm 120 is included in the Book of Pilgrim Songs, but it belongs there. This Psalm bears witness to the pilgrim’s sense of not belonging to the places he has been on this journey of life. The Psalm appears to be from the time of Diaspora, the time when Israel was scattered among the nations after the time of exile.

This pilgrim mentions two places where he did not feel comfortable in verse 5 with the words: “Woe to me…” The first place is in Meshek. According to Genesis 10:2 Meshek was one of the sons of Japheth. His territory was somewhere between the Black and the Caspian Seas, placing it far to the north of Israel. The second is Kedar, the territory of one of Ishmael’s sons in Arabia, to the south. It is mentioned in Genesis 25:13. With such a vast distance between these places, it might be understood more as an expression of the experience of being a foreigner in a strange land. This pilgrim is at odds with his surroundings, he wants to be a man of peace, but the people around him nurture hate and are looking for war in verse 6.

Aware of his status as a foreigner, he called to the Lord in prayer. His testimony was that God had answered, and was continuing to answer his prayers. The man who sought peace had found it in the Lord. We may feel a bit shaken by the events and circumstances of our own lives. We feel out of place when there is talk of hatred and war. We call unto the Lord for peace in our time. May he answer our prayers, and give us peace!

Prayer: Lord, we live in a world that sees so much hatred and violence. Here I am, Lord, come and fill me with your peace, and make me an instrument of your love for the world around me. Amen.

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